Scarborough Town Hall. Maxen Ryder

The Scarborough Town Council has authorized payment of $50,000 from the Affordable Housing Initiative Fund to support regional initiatives to provide transitional housing for asylum seekers. The support was initially pledged in the meeting on March 15 after a request from the Scarborough Housing Alliance.

The council went through the “third and final step to fulfill the pledge” in the June 21 meeting, after the initial pledge in March and then broadening the uses of the Affordable Housing Initiative Fund in early June. The council decided to fulfill the pledge using these funds rather than rely on tax dollars. Most of these funds come from contract sum negotiations, said Town Manager Tom Hall.

Currently the funds have a balance of $675,000. After this payment, the funds will drop to $625,000.

“This just makes a whole lot of sense, from a broader viewpoint,” said Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina in the March meeting. “We’ve got to do something for folks. I want to see Scarborough be a leader and providing this transitional housing to asylum seekers, not only is it the right thing to do, it’s an economic development issue. We need younger people, we need their kids, we need future generations.”

Immigrant families and individuals have consistently arrived in the greater Portland area over recent years and await final determination of their asylum status. These individuals are federally prohibited from working for the first six months, and so they are completely dependent on public support. In a system with a strained housing climate that already struggles to provide for the homeless, these “New Mainers” need assistance.

The council unanimously approved the action.

“Homelessness has really hit the area hard over the past couple of years and specific targeted solutions like this one I think is the answer,” said Councilor John Cloutier in March. “It’s not gonna solve all our problems, but it’s gonna solve this specific issue that we know about and it’s a much more efficient way of addressing the issue so I’m happy to support this.”

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